When AMC Entertainment (AMC -0.61%) acquired Carmike Cinemas in 2016, the Justice Department required AMC to divest 24 theaters it owned, representing nearly 400 movie screens, to get approval.

Since then, however, the company that was created to run those theaters has filed for bankruptcy and is liquidating its assets. Now, AMC is seeking permission to buy back 10 of those divested theaters.

People cheering at theater

Image source: Getty Images.

Unforeseen outcomes

Beekman Investment Partners created New Vision Theatres in 2017 to acquire and operate 16 divested movie theaters with 184 screens from the AMC-Carmike deal. But the New Jersey-based movie house ceased operations this July after it was unable to negotiate sufficient lease concessions from their landlords after the COVID-19 outbreak forced the closure of all theaters in the country. It then began liquidation procedures in Georgia.

Now, AMC is petitioning the district court in Washington, D.C., to modify the consent order to allow it to reacquire some of the theaters. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, AMC's motion frames the request as being in the public interest because "[t]he degree of economic hardship currently being experienced by AMC, New Vision, and the entire theatre exhibition industry is a unique changed circumstance that could not have been anticipated at the time the Final Judgment was entered."

The industry site also notes the Justice Department doesn't oppose AMC's effort.

AMC, which is the world's largest theater operator and is owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, has also danced around the edge of bankruptcy during the recession. It just announced it was selling a handful of theaters in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia for $77 million cash.